What does Cameron think about the death penalty?

Parliament could soon debate capital punishment but what does the PM think?

Parliament hasn't voted on the death penalty since 1994 but that could be about to change with the launch of the government's e-petitions site. The site promises that any petition that receives at least 100,000 signatures will be "eligible for debate in the House of Commons".

Guido Fawkes has submitted a petition to reinstate the death penalty for "the murder of children and police officers when killed in the line of duty." So far, he's won the public support of three Conservative MPs - Philip Davies, Priti Patel and Andrew Turner. Davies said: "It's something where once again the public are a long way ahead of the politicians. I'd go further and restore it for all murderers."

With this in mind, I thought it was worth investigating what David Cameron has had to say on the subject. The PM is opposed to capital punishment but does not regard it as an "unacceptable" view for Conservative MPs to hold. He told Dylan Jones, the author of Cameron on Cameron:

[I]f someone murdered one of my children then emotionally, obviously I would want to kill them. How could you not? But there have been too many cases of things going wrong, of the wrong people being executed, of evidence coming to light after the execution, and sometimes there is just too much of an element of doubt. And I just don't honestly think that in a civilised society like ours that you can have the death penalty any more.

If, like me, you regard capital punishment as state murder, you should relish the prospect of a Parliamentary debate on the subject - the best arguments are on our side. The death penalty is not a deterrent (the US murder rate has risen, not fallen, since the penalty was restored in 1976), it can lead to the death of innocents, and it has a brutalising effect on society. As George Bernard Shaw put it: "It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind."

The last time Parliament voted on the subject the death penalty was rejected by 403 votes to 159. A separate attempt to restore the penalty for the murder of a police officer was rejected by 383 votes to 186. The public, by contrast, continue to support capital punishment, although in diminishing numbers. A YouGov poll in September 2010 found that 51 per cent supported the death penalty for murder, with 37 per cent opposed.

So long as Britain remains a member of the European Union there is little prospect of the return of capital punishment - it is illegal under EU law. But this is a debate, one suspects, that will run and run.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Donald Trump tweets he is “saddened” – but not about the earthquake in Mexico

Barack Obama and Jeremy Corbyn sent messages of sympathy to Mexico. 

A devastating earthquake in Mexico has killed at least 217 people, with rescue efforts still going on. School children are among the dead.

Around the world, politicians have been quick to offer their sympathy, not least Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose wife hails from Mexico. He tweeted: "My thoughts are with all those affected by today's earthquake in Mexico. Pensando en todos los afectados por el terremoto en México hoy" in the early hours of the morning, UK time.

Barack Obama may no longer be an elected politician, but he too offered a heartfelt message to those suffering, and like Corbyn, he wrote some of it in Spanish. "Thinking about our neighbors in Mexico and all our Mexican-American friends tonight. Cuidense mucho y un fuerte abrazo para todos," he tweeted. 

But what about the man now installed in the White House, Donald Trump? The Wall Builder-in-Chief was not idle on Tuesday night - in fact, he shared a message to the world via Twitter an hour after Obama. He too was "saddened" by what he had heard on Tuesday evening, news that he dubbed "the worst ever".

Yes, that's right. The Emmys viewing figures.

"I was saddened to see how bad the ratings were on the Emmys last night - the worst ever," he tweeted. "Smartest people of them all are the "DEPLORABLES."

No doubt Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto will get round to offering the United States his commiserations soon. 

I'm a mole, innit.